In the Greenlandic community of Ittoqqortoormiit, encountering a polar bear on the way to school or work is a real, and frightening, possibility. A new polar bear patrol, hired with the support of WWF, will scare bears away from town to keep both bears and people safe.
A resident of Ittoqqortoormiit on the challenges of living alongside polar bears
The officer Anders Albirk sets out on a patrol of the community and surrounding area each weekday morning, assisted by Ittoqqortoormiit's gamekeeper, Erling Madsen. There is also a phone number that community members can call if they spot a bear.
Within a week of the patrol's launch, Albirk had already frightened one polar bear away from town.
Conflict between polar bears and people is increasing in many parts of the Arctic. Sea ice is a polar bear's preferred habitat and hunting ground. In places where sea ice forms later and melts earlier than in the past, bears are forced to spend more time on shore. Polar bears on land are hungry and opportunistic - and some are drawn to human settlements.
Previously: Polar bear conflict hits record high, raises fears in Greenland
WWF hopes to extent the patrol period next year, and to purchase additional equipment for the patrollers. If the project in Ittoqqortoormiit is successful, it may be extended to other communities in Greenland. WWF has instituted polar bear patrols in Canada, the US, and Russia.
Learn more: Polar bear/human conflict